Though the program notes were the work of publicists, there's still something unsettling about claims that so liberally compare a singer like Diane Schuur to the likes of Billie, Ella, Sarah, Dinah and Aretha after lauding her as being "among the great song interpreters of our day."
While she works from the same repertoire as many of the above singers (Aretha Franklin being the obvious exception), Schuur, who performed a one-nighter at El Camino College Saturday night, lacks the originality of Billie, the oh-so-natural swing of Ella, the pure vocal chops of Sarah and the earthiness of Dinah.
Those things considered, Schuur's two-set concert before a packed auditorium, while certainly not unpleasant, was hardly the trail-blazing experience hoped for.
Working from behind the piano, and supported by a trio led by synthesist Randy Porter and featuring drummer John Guerin and bassist Bob Magnusson, Schuur breezed through a nine-tune opening set of formulized standards (open with a fast one, throw in a couple of ballads, end with a blues) that failed to demonstrate any departure from the norm.
Schuur has a solid alto voice with a tightly controlled vibrato that she would do well to stay with. Without exception, every tune during her concert featured a moment or two when she would effect a back-of-the-throat falsetto scream whose intonation was so faulty as to deserve a key change.
When she wasn't impersonating Minnie Ripperton, Schuur demonstrated a good feeling for the blues ("High Powered Mama"), bop (her scat vocals and piano solos on "Scrapple From the Apple" were impressive) and the ballad (a slow rendition of "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "See You With my Heart" were terrific).